Why ‘SMART’ Goals Are Stupid

Average reading time – 5 minutes

When it comes to goal setting, you’ll have heard about SMART goals. How it is important to set a goal that is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. For years we’ve been taught this model – perhaps in your latest review at work, your boss asked you to set your goals for the forthcoming quarter and of course, you followed the SMART rule of thumb.

But if SMART goals are the way to do it, then why do so many of us not achieve our goals?

Because SMART goals are stupid. 

Bit harsh maybe? But there are certainly some flaws within SMART goals that contribute to people not setting goals they ever achieve. After all, what’s the point in having the most perfect academic worthy SMART goal… and then not going out and achieving it!

Here is why SMART goals are stupid. Let me explain why and suggest better ways to set objectives so that you become more productive.

Alice Dartnell Life Success Coach London Consultation Max Lenz Stuggart SMART Range GGoals Chalkboard Graphic

SMART goals are not the most useful way to set goals in this life-by-design age.

Reason 1: Where is your “why”

First off, a SMART goal doesn’t include the question ‘why?’ in your goal. It’s too clinical. It says what you will achieve and by when, but where is the passion? Without the fire in your belly, it’s hard to motivate yourself towards achieving your goal. A strong why connects you to your purpose of the goal. No one was ever motivated to do something just because they can, think they have to or been told to!

Simon Sinek famously talks about this in his TED talk and I also support this in my talks and webinars about pitfalls to achieving your goals and goal setting. Your why is your driver to your goal, it is what sets you apart from others, it is what connects people to your cause, it is what gives you the ability to pick yourself up when you come across a hurdle.

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When setting your goal – you need to ask, what hurdles will there be and what can I do to overcome them?

Reason 2: What’s going to trip you up?

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but there is never going to be a goal in our life that you achieve where it’s been 100% plain sailing. You WILL trip, fall, fail, feel stupid, get hurt and want to give up. This is not to be cynical or “glass half empty” but by knowing that there will be obstacles makes us plan for them. After all, prevention is better than cure! When setting your goal, think beyond this – you need to ask, what hurdles will there be and what can I do to overcome them?

Reason 3: Who wants a goal that is attainable?

I have always been the type of person who goes for something bigger because I know if I miss the mark, then at least I have still hit a decent goal. As they say, shoot for the moon because if you miss you will still be among the stars. My problem with SMART is that it encourages us to play safe by going for something ‘attainable’. Where is the fun and development in that?

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When you set goals you need to factor in “buffers” and ‘cheat days’!

Reason 4: Cheat meal your goal

SMART goals don’t address the issue of motivation. We’re not robots. We’re not going to feel motivated 100% of the time. I know I don’t! One of the reasons we often derail from our goals is because we berate ourselves when we fall off the wagon. When I set goals, I know at some point I am going to fall off the wagon, so I factor in “buffers”. For example, if I am on a diet, I will factor in “cheat meals” because we can’t be motivated and all guns blazing 100% of the time. Whether your goal is to build a business, go for a promotion, start learning Chinese, or learn to drive, where can you factor in your ‘cheat days’?

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When we set goals we need to make sure ladder the ladder is leaning on the right wall before we climb up it!

Reason 5: Let’s review that

I totally agree with SMART that goals need to be specific but where is the room for a review? It is crucial that goals are regularly reviewed to ensure you are on track but most importantly that the goal is still the goal. There is little point reaching success in something, but it doesn’t actually matter. We’ve all heard about making sure the ladder is leaning on the right wall before we climb up it.

Alice Dartnell Life Success Coach London Consultation Max Lenz Stuggart SMART Range GGoals Chalkboard Graphic range goals SMART

Range goals can be applied in every aspect of your life including health, finance, business, and other projects.

Range Goals and Further Reading

As I explain in my blog Power of Goal Setting using ‘Range Goals’, forward-looking “range goals” are a smarter alternative to the traditional SMART goals.  Range goals are something I have developed and something that I have incorporated into all my personal life and business objectives.  Range goals still require you to set a goal but instead of setting a specific target, you decide what your target is within a range

The first advantage of setting range goals is that you will not beat yourself up or be too hard on yourself if you just miss your target. The second advantage of range goals is that setting range goals also allow us to exceed our expectations.

Read my blog Power of Goal Setting using ‘Range Goals’,  to find out more about what a “range goal” is, how range goals are better for your mindset and motivation, why they are more likely to help you on your road to success plus how you can adopt ‘range goals’ professionally and personally. And don’t worry, I also share some practical tips and tools to help set them and implement them. 

Like to know more?

If this has resonated with you, I would love to hear from you! Get in touch to share your aha moments or what you have answered in the reflection exercises.

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Other Blog Articles On My Web Site

Below are links to other blog articles that you might be interested to read.

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If you asked me what was one of the things I was most proud about in my corporate career, apart from moving up the ladder fairly quickly, it would also probably be my work-life balance.



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Tony Robbins’ world famous “Unleash the Power Within” seminar… here are my three key take homes from the four-day extravaganza.



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This article is written by Alice Dartnell, life and success coach of Alice Dartnell Limited. Alice empowers busy professionals to be successful, transform their lives and achieve more by improving their confidence, mindset and time management.

For more information please see www.alicedartnell.com.

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